Tag Archive | Forest

Check that out!

‘Checkout ’ takes on a special meaning at the Zoopermarket officially launched today at Melbourne Zoo.

At a normal supermarket checkout, consumers pay for their selected products. At the Zoopermarket, consumers will get to check out the ingredients in some items commonly found on supermarket shelves.

Knowing what’s what when confronted with an array of products can be confusing, especially since Australia’s labelling laws allow palm oil to be labelled as ‘vegetable oil’.

Scanning selected Zoopermarket items will reveal whether the manufacturer is using palm oil, and if so whether it is being produced sustainably.

The Zoopermarket is the latest stage in the ongoing Don’t Palm us Off campaign, which aims to draw consumer attention to the widespread use of unsustainably produced palm oil and facilitate their communication with manufacturers on this issue to encourage use of sustainably sourced palm oil.

The clearing of rainforest in order to plant vast expanses of palm oil trees is the single largest factor in harming wildlife populations in South East Asia, including the rapidly diminishing orang-utan population.

Palm oil is found in about 40% of the products on supermarket shelves. Certified Sustainable Palm Oil (CSPO) is an alternative ingredient that is produced without harming local wildlife and communities.

Now Zoo visitors can see for themselves how some common supermarket products rate in terms of their use of palm oil.

Visitors will be able to scan selected products, see where they rate on this three-stage scale, and email manufacturers accordingly, either to congratulate them or to ask for a change in palm oil policy.

The Zoopermarket is located at our Orang-utan Sanctuary giving visitors viewing Asia’s only Great Apes better information about the issue that is pushing them towards extinction.

visit Zoo Victoria Website today and find out how you can make a difference!

Conservation scientists: Aceh’s spatial plan a risk to forests, wildlife, and people

Rhett A. Butler, mongabay.com

March 22, 2013

A group of biologists and conservation scientists meeting in Sumatra warned that potential changes to Aceh’s spatial plan could undermine some of the ecological services that underpin the Indonesian province’s economy and well-being of its citizens. After its meeting from March 18-22 in Banda Aceh, the Asia chapter of the Association for Tropical Biology and Conservation (ATBC) issued a declaration [PDF] highlighting the importance of the region’s tropical forest ecosystem, which is potentially at risk due to proposed changes to its spatial plan or system of land-use zoning.

Under the new spatial plan, more than 150,000 hectares of previously protected forest land would be given over for logging and conversion to plantations. Nearly a million hectares of mining exploration licenses would be granted.

One concern is that some concessions are located in steep watersheds that sustain lowland rice production. Another worry, highlighted by environmental groups, is that substantial blocks of surviving lowland habitats for orangutans would be put up for logging and oil palm plantations, putting the critically endangered species at increased risk. Aceh is one the only place on Earth where orangutans, rhinos, tigers, and elephants can be found living in the same forest.

The ATBC resolution notes some of these concerns. “Aceh forests are essential for food security, regulating water flows in both the monsoon and drought seasons to irrigate rice fields and other cash crops,” states the declaration. “Forest disruption in Aceh’s upland areas will increase the risk of destructive flooding for people living downstream in the coastal lowlands.”

ATBC says that the proposed spatial plan “will elevate the risk of serious local environmental problems, a loss of key nature hydrological functions, and serious disruption of lowland river systems and fisheries, which could negatively affect human livelihoods and biodiversity.” It adds that “further conversion of lowland forest will increase conflicts between people and surviving wild elephants, posing a significant threat to farming livelihoods.”

The group, which is the largest association of tropical conservation scientists, therefore recommended that Aceh’s spatial plan “be based on the extensive, high-quality spatial data that are available within the Government of Aceh agencies, especially maps on watershed forest areas, environmental risk, soil types, geological hazards, human population centers, rainfall and the distribution of Aceh’s wildlife.” It also called for action against illegal logging, forest conservation, and road construction.

ATBC-Asia urged the Aceh government to adopt an economic development model that “prioritizes clean development and payments for environmental services, while limiting unsustainable natural resource extraction.

Aceh has the most extensive forest cover of any province in Sumatra. It has had a moratorium on logging since 2007, although the new spatial plan would effectively end the logging ban.


Environmental Activist Urges the Government of Aceh Review Spatial Plan

The Globe Journal | Afifuddin Acal
(Original in Bahasa Indonesian)
Monday, March 18, 2013 18:56 pm

Banda Aceh – Dozens of environmental activists who joined in Aceh Spatial Alliance (ATRA), staged Monday afternoon in front of the Hermes Hotel Aceh demanded that the government cancel the Spatial Layout Plan (Spatial Plan) Aceh are being discussed.
Action coordinator, Faisal Kamal said that, RTRW Aceh is full of interest and breaking the rules. Overlapping concession permit were found in various locations that was initially protected and proposed to be unprotected. These concession doesnt fulfil their duties and breaking the law, they also doesnt have IPKH (Permits to utilize Forest Area).

“The plan of Qanun Spatial Plan (Provincial Law) is heavily indicated with procedurally flaw and violation to the law,” said Faisal Kamal in his speech.

Moreover, the Director of Walhi Aceh, Zulfikar T.Muhammad in his speech said that Aceh is prone to natural disasters. This is a result of unsuitable utilization of Aceh forests, which will be worsen if the current spatial plan proceed at its current course.

“The people of Aceh currently being misled, and we are rejecting the Spatial Plans currently being pushed and lobbied,” said TM Zulfikar in his speech.

While other orators mentioned, during the designing process of Aceh new spatial plan, Government of Aceh actively refuse to involve community and NGOs as stakeholders. Supposedly, the draft spatial plan should first being consulted the broader community, as direct beneficiaries and most at risk.

“The Spatial Plan currently being designed by the government only impressive on the table and not on the ground, therefore, we are requesting the plan to be re-designed by involving all stakeholders,” said Isma Effensi.

In the action held in front yard Hermes Hotel was guarding by local police. Dozens of police seen stood guard around the Hermes.

After doing the speech for about 30 minutes, Head of Forestry, Husaini Syamaun directly meet the protesters. On that occasion, Husaini promised not to let the forests of Aceh damaged.

“The Government of Aceh will not destroy forest, let alone allow law violation, the Government of Aceh is committed to keep the forest,” said Husaini Syamaun front of the protesters.

Furthermore, he said, do not listen exhale issues by parties that are not responsible. “Please only use official information, do not get stuck with issues if its not officials,” he said. Yet, protester have stated that official information are next to impossible to access.


Dozens of community hold public demonstration in front of Hermes Palace Hotel rejecting the proposed Aceh spatial plan

The Atjeh Post

Dozens of people incorporated in the community forums and NGOs in Aceh Tamiang, staged a demonstration in front of the Hermes Palace Hotel, Monday, March 18, 2013, at 17.00 hrs. Comminuties rejected the proposed Spatial Plan (RTRW) Aceh.

Director Walhi Aceh, TM Zulfikar, who also perform this action said that it rejected the proposed spatial plan of Aceh. He also invites people to voice out their concern on Aceh new spatial plan.

“Many people want to extract Aceh resources, land and forest, taking into example in Aceh Tamiang where protected forests turned into Areas for Other Land Use (APL) in proposed spatial plan. This is a major disavantage for the community who are put at risk when natural disaster such as flood wash over their agriculture and villages. That is the reason why we are rejecting proposed spatial plan,” said TM Zulfikar.

ATJEHPOST observed, the protesters also shouted slogans anti RTRW Aceh. According to the protesters, a number of areas proposed to be re-designated from protected forest to Other Land Use are overlapping with illegal palm oil concession and encroachment, which show the likelihood of ‘white-washing’ efforts government is taking against these illegal behavior.

originally published in Indonesian

NGOs slam forest concession reactivation

Hotli Simajuntak | The Jakarta Post – Paper edition

Aceh’s title as a “green” province may likely end with the reactivation of production forest concessions (HPH) in Aceh by the new administration of Zaini Abdullah and Munakir Manaf.

“The Forestry Ministry is currently lobbying the new Aceh administration to reactivate the HPH, which was earlier suspended during Irwandi Yusuf’s administration,” said Greenomics Indonesia coordinator Vanda Mutia Dewi.

According to Vanda, Greenomics recorded around 10 production forest concessions from the previous Aceh administration.

Greenomics Indonesia has strongly criticized the planned reactivation of the 10 HPH permits in Aceh by the Forestry Ministry.

“We strongly criticize the plan to reactivate the HPH operation licenses, which were earlier imposed as a moratorium by previous governor Irwandi Yusuf,” said Vanda.

Vanda urged the current Aceh Governor Zaini not to commit to a political compromise by agreeing to reactivate HPH operations in Aceh.

According to her, Zaini should continue the moratorium and seek an alternative to curb illegal logging effectively and ensure the supply of timber for development and the housing needs of people.

Vanda said Greenomics Indonesia had given several reasons why it had been firm in requiring the stoppage of HPH operations in Aceh, such as the 10 HPH permits covering 819,892 hectares, which were located within and around the Leuser ecosystem.

Besides that, nearly 300,000 hectares of the forest concession areas are in the form of protected forests and conservation areas.

“The 10 production forest concessions are located in 15 regencies and mayoralties that are ecologically at risk of natural disasters, such as floods and landslides,” said Vanda.

Vanda urged Zaini to study the facts carefully and not mix particular political agendas to reactivate the HPH in Aceh.

The Aceh Indonesia Environmental Forum said that the planned issuance of HPH permits in Aceh was a step backward in efforts to save the environment, especially conservation forests in Aceh.

The Aceh chapter of the Indonesian Forum for the Environment (Walhi) even deemed that the numerous logging moratorium programs in Aceh had not been fully implemented by the former administration and had become a burden for the new administration.

“The new administration should be extra careful in issuing HPH or mining permits again as they could damage the forests in Aceh,” said Aceh Walhi coordinator Teuku Zulfikar.


EPA Visit, Let’s Have A Look At Oil Palm Plantations in Indonesia

By Sapariah Saturi,  October 22, 2012 9:59 pm | Free translation by Adji Darsoyo

Aerial image taken on Tuesday, 27 March 2012

“If the world refuses oil palm, that’s not fair. I die hard there. I talked to Greenpeace, telling that there is no environmental destructing oil palm in Indonesia.” That was Presiden SBY’s statement by the end of June 2012 in Rion De Janeiro, Brazil, as quoted by Investor Daily. 

Who knows, may be the Presiden was too busy to read or to receive reports on the issues around the operation of oil palm plantations in this country. The statement contradicts the report of Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) claiming that the production of Crude Palm Oil from Indonesia is environmentally unfriendly. EPA replied by visiting this country to look closer at the oil palm plantation.

Before visiting the plantations, EPA’s representative attended a 1-day workshop with the topic Sustainable Palm Oil Related to GHG Emission in Jakarta. This event was initiated by ISPO Commission in collaboratio with the Indonesian Oil Palm Council (DMSI), Indonesian Palm Oil Association (Gapki) and supported by the Ministry of Agriculture.

source: YEL/SOCP/PanEco

Let us have a glimpse look at some excerpts of events showing how “unclean” the oil palm plantations in this country, be it of the members of Rountable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) or not. Still fresh in our memory, by the end of September 2012, as Aceh Governor Zaini Abdullah revoked the permit of PT. Kalista Alam over 1,605 ha oil palm plantation in Aceh’s Tripa Peat Swamp. The permit issued by former Aceh Governor Irwandi Yusuf in August 2011 was included within the area of moratorium.

This permit was not only violating the procedure – which was legally challenged by WALHI Aceh and granted by the Administrative High Court of Medan, the land clearing was done by burning. For the clearing by burning, the Presiden Director of PT Kalista Alam became a suspect.

Is Tripa Peat Swamp free from destruction? The answer is: No. Why? There are still oil palm companies remaining within this peat swamp forest area, which is part of Leuser Ecosystem. By the end of 2012, smokes were still observed within the areas of several oil palm concessions.

Data from Yayasan Ekosistem Lestari (YEL) obtained from satellite images until September 2012, the highest number of hotspots were identified within two olil palm concession areas, which are 134 in the area of PT Surya Panen Subur and 55 of PT Dua Perkasa Lestari. “It turns out that whilst fussing about PT Kalista Alam, the others took the chance to continue their action,” said Riswan Zen, a researche of Yayasan Ekosistem Lestari (YEL), by the beginnig of October 2012.

Another case, within the plantation of PT Bumi Pratama Khatulistiwa (PT BPK) of Wilmar International Group. By the end of August 2012 in the village of Sungai Enau, Sub district Kuala Mandor b of the District Kubu Raya in West Kalimantan, farmers have been protesting against this oil palm company, member of RSPO. This is not the first time. They repeatedly demanded the company to fulfil its promises, among others to improve the access road and to employ the surrounding community.

Those to points are parts of the agreement between the company and the community as the condition for the community to release their lands. This agreement has been reviewed many times, the last was due in the mid of August. Since there was no realisation, the community reclaimed their land of around 4,000 ha. This is only one of a number of the issues resulted through the presence of oil palm companies in this area.

Investigation of WALHI West Kalimantan in April 2012 shows that the company has ignored the social aspect and the aspect of sustainable management of the environment. The company also ignored a number of regulations related to the obligations to fulfil as being member of RSPO and the IFC’s standard of performance.

The standard regulations of RSPO are among others commitment to transparency, complying with existing laws and regulations, commitment to long term economic and financial viability. Then, targeted best management practices of the plantation and the mill, environmental responsibilty, conservation of natural resources and biodiversity, as well as responsibility upon workers, individuals and community affected by the plantation and the mill.

Standard criteria of IFC are among others assessment on social, environmental, management and labor systems and working condition, mitigation to pollution, utilisation, health and community’s safety and security. Then, land acquisition and resettlement as well as sustainable conservation of biodiversity and natural resources, indigenous community and culutural heritage.

According to Hendrikus Adam, Research and Communication Coordinator of WALHI West Kalimantan, WALHI’s findings  are among others that the community does not experience any social responsibility of the company. If there was, it was based on the request of the community, not based on the company’s initiative. And then also that the company grabs the land from the community during the expansion of the plantation.

Conflict potensial in the field related to the presence of the company are still existing. This is visible through sign boards installed by the community restricting the company to work on the land within the company’s plantation area. “The community has been demonstrating demanding company’s righteousness. The community has claimed the land, plasma  Potensi konflik di lapangan, terkait kehadiran perusahaan masih ada. Kondisi ini, terlihat dari pemasangan sejumlah plang oleh warga sebagai tanda perusahaan dilarang mengerjakan lahan di areal perkebunan PT. BPK.  “Warga pernah demonstrasi menuntut keadilan kepada PT. BPK. Banyak lahan diklaim masyarakat, plasma plantation was managed by the company and never divided amongst the farmers,” he said mid September 2012.

The company was considered not trasparent in the management of the plantation. The clearing of the plantation land of PT. BPK also destroyed the forest in the surrounding of community’s settlement. “This totally eliminates the biodiversity and existing wild life as well as traditional medicine plants.”

Google Mapping Tool Exposes Illegal Logging

Map showing boundary of Leuser Ecosystem and wildlife distribution including Critically Endangered Sumatran Rhino, Sumatran Orangutan, Sumatran Elephant and Sumatran Tiger

Christine Dell’Amore | National Geographic News

Conservationists working to save forests and species on the ground are looking to the sky, thanks to mapping tools and satellites that capture Earth like never before.

One project, Eyes on the Forest, is lifting the veil on forest loss in Sumatra, Indonesia, where demand for pulp, palm oil, rubber, and coal has created a nearly ”unstoppable wave of [illegal] deforestation,” said Michael Stuewe, a WWF-US scientist I met for breakfast this morning at the World Conservation Congress.

Decades of data on species populations, forest cover, natural carbon stores, and more went into the easy-to-use mapping tool that’s accessible to anyone.

“We needed a system that would make data available immediately to any user,” said Stuewe.

Powered by Google Maps Engine, the mapping tool—a joint effort by WWF-Indonesia; the NGO coalition Eyes on the Forest, based in Riau, Sumatra; and Google Earth Outreach—allows you to choose certain data sets, such as Sumatran elephant populations, and create “layers” of data over a map of Sumatra.

Google Earth provides images taken by NASA’s Landsat satellite that are detailed enough to show canals or roads created during deforestation, Stuewe noted.

I’ve never used GIS, but I easily created the below map by focusing on two subjects: forest cover and Sumatran elephant populations. (Try your hand at Eyes on the Forest.)

The light green shows forest cover in Sumatra in 1985, while dark green shows forest cover in 2009. Government protected areas are shown in white circles. More tricky to discern are the two population estimates for elephants. If you look closely, the darker blue circles (elephant populations in 2007) sit on top of the lighter blue circles (elephant populations in 1985).

The map shows clearly that both trends—elephant populations and forest cover—are in decline.

Palm Plantations a “Cancerous Growth”

A main reason for deforestation and species loss in Indonesia is palm oil plantations—an “unregulated, wild cancerous growth” in national parks and government lands in Indonesia, Stuewe said. Plantation owners who set up their plantation in government forests get additional profit from selling the timber logged to clear the land, Stuewe said.

Palm oil, “the most successful oil in the world,” is widespread in everything from cosmetics to French fries to even chocolate bars (the oil prevents the chocolate from melting), he said.

Unfortunately, palm oil plants are like a “paradise of candy stores for elephants,” said Stuewe. The behemoths can destroy hundreds of young palm trees in a single night—prompting some plantation workers to poison elephants with fertilizer and organophosphate pesticides. That results in a “brutal death” for the animal, he said.

There are sustainable ways to produce palm oil, he noted, for example by planting on degraded lands, for which no biodiverse rain forest is destroyed.

The ultimate goal, said Stuewe, is to totally expose such activities, so that governments, large corporations, and everybody involved in palm oil knows where the oil in their products is coming from—and stops buying from illegal sources.

And as new cloud-penetrating radar satellites come aboard, people involved in illegal deforestation “can no longer run away,” he said.

“We can now approach full transparency.”

Satellites For Conservation

Next I stopped by NASA’s booth in the Exhibition Hall to chat with Michael Abrams, a geologist by training who develops new instruments for Earth-observing satellites such as Landsat, the same one that provides Stuewe and colleagues with their Sumatra data.

Surrounded by colorful satellite maps of subjects as diverse as shrimp farms and Las Vegas sprawl, Abrams gave me a brief primer on NASA’s Earth-observing satellites, which go back to 1972.

Every two weeks a NASA satellite images the entire Earth, providing valuable data of changes on Earth’s surface, including (you guessed it) deforestation.

For example, scientists can see where roads or farms have sprouted in parts of the rain forest, perhaps providing data for where to focus conservation efforts.

“Anything that changes we can map, and people try to assess the impact,” Abrams said.

Watch Abrams talk about Amazon deforestation here

Birthday boy takes cake

DID somebody say cake?

Sumatran orang-utan Menyaru enjoyed a fruitcake at Melbourne Zoo yesterday to celebrate his ninth birthday.

His father Santan and 18-month-old sister Dewi joined in the celebrations — but their cousins in the forests of northern Sumatra are not so lucky.

Fires are raging through the Tripa peat forest in Aceh as companies break Indonesian law to clear land to make way for palm oil plantations.

Zoos Victoria conservation director Rachel Lowry said orang-utan numbers were dropping as they lost their rainforest habitat.

“Palm oil is in at least 50 per cent of the manufactured foods we buy, but in most cases we don’t know that because it is currently legal to label it as vegetable oil,” she said. “We want that to change, so we as consumers will be able to exercise the right to choose products with full knowledge of the ingredients included.”

To mark Menyaru’s birthday, Zoos Victoria provided funds to buy two motorbikes for conservationists helping injured or orphaned orang-utans in Tripa.

Net link: zoo.org.au/palmoil

The Condition of Tripa Peat Swamp Is Critical, All Drainage Canals Should Be Blocked

Atjeh Post

COMMUNITY LAWYERS COALITION TEAM | Free translation by Adji Darsoyo

ALL canals of the palm oil plantations in Tripa Peat Swamp within the Leuser Ecosystem have to be blocked to restore the optimal function of the swamp ecosystem. Otherwise,  it will lead to a total destruction that can also lead to the vanishing of the community in its interior, since the subsidence caused leads to its vulnerability towards disaster. Peat fires increased recently caused by the canals that increase the vulnerability towards fire. The government has to immediately respond to the current situation in Tripa and to take concrete action to stop the destruction of Tripa. Otherwise, this will give an impression that the government only protects the interest of oil palm companies without any attention towards community’s interest. The condition of Tripa is currently extremely critical and needs immediate solution. Dried peat layers burns easily and lots of orangutans were burnt to death.

Investigation carried out by the authorities related to various violation in Tripa, Aceh, has not been finalised, but peat burning continues, even in larger scale. Increased peat burning in Tripa shows that the Indonesian Government fails to stop deforestation. Orangutan population in this particular area is vanishing, unless all illegal activities in the area were ceased as immediate as possible. A wave of large scale peat burning swept across Tripa Peat Swamp forest, reflecting the rapid destruction of destruction and consistent ignorance towards Indonesian National Law by oil palm companies within the protected Leuser Ecosystem, despite the investigation at national level was launched last month, an investigation, which findings has not been made public. New records on the number of fires has been recorded in Sumatra by fire or hotspot observation satellite that has been confirmed by field staff last week through film and pictures documentary. Fires occurred in palm oil concession areas in the whole Tripa. Five companies currently active in Tripa has responded to the increased media observations and investigations by increasing the security of their plantation. Some are even guarded by military and police force that are positioned along the access road during the illegal slash and burn occurred in the plantation areas.

Destructive activities continue to be conducted by the plantation companies during the on-going investigation. This shows clear ignorance  towards Indonesian laws and investigating authorities. This is a weird event and the government should have stopped this.

Under such condition, I’d like to address to the President to issue direct instructions to halt the wide spread illegal destruction of Tripa. Not only giving nice  speeches, while the facts on the field are completely different.

There is no doubt that each of the company violate several laws. Meanwhile, we very much realise and appreciate as well as support the on-going investigation conducted by the Ministry of Environment, even though it has been proven to be slow. Those companies should have been ordered to immediately stop, so that the law enforcement in forestry sector can proceed, since otherwise the peat forest and the community of Tripa will disappear forever. One of the companies operating in Tripa, PT. Kallista Alam, has been brought before the  court and the company’s plantation area was re-included in the 2nd revision of the moratorium map on May 25, 2012 that it is since restricted for deforestation and degradation.

The area has certainly been a subject of an ongoing legal battle, since it has clearly violated the National Law No. 26/2007 on Spatial Planning and the Government Regulation No. 26/2008 related to the permit for this particular area within the National Strategic Area (Kawasan Ekosistem Leuser) with protecting function, where actually no permit to be issued for any  destructive activity towards the protecting function of the ecosystem, and where all destructive activities are to be ceased and the devastated area to be rehabilitated. Fires raged last week in the northern side of the area of PT. Kallista Alam.much of the clearly elaborated fires were also observed within the area of PT. Surya Panen Subur-2, PT. Cemerlang Abadi, PT. Gelora Sawita Makmur, PT. Dua Perkasa Lestari and within the area known as the former area of  PT. Patriot Guna Sakti Abadi, although for the latter, no official permit seemed to be issued.

“It is indeed a horrible situation,” said Dr. Ian Singleton from Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Programme (SOCP). “Every time I visited Tripa during the past 12 months, I always found several orangutans hanging to survive at forest edge. It was so easy to find them and we have evacuated some lucky ones to other, more secure areas. But when you look at the speed of the wave of destruction and the condition of the remaining forest, there is not even a single doubt that lots of orangutans died caused by the fire itself, or starved to death due to the lost of habitat and food source,” he said.

The Tripa Peat Swamp Forest has attracted many and quite large international attentions, many of which focused on the facts that the burning of Tripa Peat Swamp Forest became a subject of humiliation towards the US$ 1 billion dollar agreement between the Indonesian and the Norwegian Government to reduce emission from deforestation and forest degradation, also known as REDD+ Agreement, since the peat swamp of Tripa absorbs huge amount of carbon released to the atmosphere.

Dr. Singleton also pointed out that “There is a viable orangutan population in Tripa, but it vanishes quickly, and there are never-utilized cleared forest as well. All those companies should have received instructions to halt all destructive operations during the investigation process conducted by the authorities. Ideally, appropriate law suit and prosecution are to be applied to save Tripa included its orangutan population and to rehabilitate the area, due to its huge contribution to the livelihood of the local community.”

“But if there is no immediate halt, then everything will be lost for the sake of the interest of only a few people, who are already very rich and living somewhere else. All these don’t make any sense at all, not environmentally friendly or economically even not profitable. This is a large-scale greed. An outrageous scale of greed,” said Dr. Ian Singleton.

Forests remain under threat from acquisitive industries | The Jakarta Post

Forests remain under threat from acquisitive industries

Several protected areas across the archipelago remain under threat of deforestation apparently due to the ineffective moratorium program launched by the government last year, environmental groups say.

The environmental groups have witnessed continuing forest destruction by several companies despite the moratorium.

On Thursday, Greenpeace, a member of the environmental groups’ coalition, published its findings on the current situation of Indonesian forests in Riau and Central Kalimantan provinces.

They estimate that 4.9 million hectares of primary forests and peatland, out of a total 71.01 million hectares covered by the moratorium, will be lost to palm-oil industries, coal mines and other forest conversions by the end of this month.

“The data shows that the forests and peatland are still at risk,” said Yuyun Indradi, Greenpeace Indonesia’s political campaigner.

The three largest protected areas are located in Kalimantan, with 1.9 million hectares; followed by Papua, with 1.7 million hectares; and Sumatra, with 775,371 hectares.

In Central Kalimantan, the regions worst affected by the industries are Pulang Pisau and South Lamandau. Meanwhile, the most endangered areas in Riau are Pulau Padang, Kerumutan, Kampar peninsula and Senepis forest. They are all known for their extensive peatland coverage.

In its efforts to reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD), the Indonesian government issued a presidential decree in May 2011, ordering a two-year suspension on new concession permits on primary forests and peatland.

At the time, the government said it would review the moratorium every six months. In November 2011, it published a revision, in which some areas were removed from the moratorium map, including the Tripa peat swamp in Aceh. The total area covered in the revision was 65.37 million hectares.

Forestry Ministry spokesman Sumarto Suharno told The Jakarta Post last month that one of the reasons behind Tripa’s removal was data from the National Land Agency (BPN) that indicated that those areas were suitable for commercial development.

The environmental groups have accused the government of turning a blind eye to ongoing deforestation by companies that were granted concessions before the decree was issued.

The environmental activists stated that those companies were “the ones that are continuing to destroy the environment”.

“It seems like the government condones these practices,” Muslim Rasyid, from the Riau Forest Rescue Network (Jikalahari), said.

Muslim added that palm-oil industries had also encroached further into the biosphere reserve in Bukit Kecil, Riau, adding that the Presidential Working Unit for the Supervision and Management of Development (UKP4) knew exactly what was going on there, but had yet to offer any concrete solution.

Yuyun said that he and his fellow activists appreciated that several government agencies had sent investigative teams into the threatened areas.

However, he added that for the agencies, violations of environmental laws were unimportant.

“They issued recommendations, but what we really want them to do is to take stern measures to curb the ongoing deforestation. For the moment, they must stop the industries’ operations and review their permits,” he added.

The coalition concluded that by the end of this month, when the government is due to publish another moratorium revision, nothing much would have been achieved. (tas)